Andre Wallace

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Moving on to new pastures

We are moving on to a new Blog at Contemporary art in decline
This is simply because there is evidence that at last things are changing in the art world. Sanity is returning as visual art is splitting into entertainment art and serious art. The new Blog will explore the differences between these two contemporary manifestations looking at newer art forms and alternative art, again with critical values foremost.

The new blog can be found here

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mega Hubris at Venice Biennale

So over at the Venice Biennale the usual suspect has shown the results of the influence of the hubristic talent that goes by the name of Jeff Koons. Ten years in the making but not made by the usual suspect we have the mega promotion of a truly truly gargantuan effort. Belief is everything, we are lectured to by himself. It amuses to reflect upon the influence of Catholic churches doctrines upon YBA art via reprobate Michael Craig Martin whose oak tree riffed the catholic mass. Now we have the usual suspect telling us that it is all down to divine self belief. Only this serves to point up the real weakness of the kitsch whose meaning and content is rooted in celebrity culture rather than in any original aspects of real world. One effort is so completely lacking in aesthetic awareness it seems that image 9 here is taking undue liberties with our little knowledge of barbie. This playing with content happens throughout the show and achieves nothing of any import.

Nevertheless, no-one has ever made such a gargantuan effort to retrieve their artistic reputation. It remains to be seen whether it will work? Even the blessed Sooke is less than impressed with this show in the Telegraph:

"At first, I was willing to suspend my disbelief, and play along with the whole farrago: after all, there’s something so gloriously demented about The Warrior and the Bear, so exultantly absurd, that my jaw hit the polished-concrete floor. Its aesthetic channels Jeff Koons circa 1988 (indeed, references abound to Koons’s infamous Banality sculptures), but amped up and bejewelled, if such a thing is possible. I grinned, and thought: well, at least Hirst has been having a blast, over the past decade, preparing for this show."

On a lesser note the RSPCA have accused Hirst of destroying too many lives in the pursuit of his art.

The Financial Times gets it exactly right with the concluding commentary at:

The Saatchi gallery is trying to convince us that selfies are art, but they are not even close -unless they are staid artist's self portraits. The boring truth is that selfies are a mirror to the faux celebrity culture we inhabit where everyone is a 15 minutes facebook aspiring star of self interest, but it's usually self absorption of no real interest except to the perpetrator. Phone cameras have a lot to answer for.

On a sounder note Richard Long is exhibiting at Houghton Hall.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cerith Wyn Evans - Tate Britain.

Today's Guardian contains hype from Adrian Searle concerning Tate Britain's show of neon lights from one Cerith Wyn Williams. Neon is in danger of being done to death by repetition. The work entitled "forms in space - by light" (how original is that one?) is "to be experienced as a journey, or a piece of music." Unfortunately it's content, like that of Marc Quinn at the Sir John Soanes Museum in Lincoln Inn fields points up everything that is wrong with State contemporary art today. The content of both efforts is misbegotten imitative bunk. Let's analyse the Tate Britain exhibition which is premised upon scratches from our old friend Duchamp's Large glass. So bereft of inspiration is Evans he has directly lifted the geometrical signs from the bottom of Duchamp's effort and is re-quoting them as mobiles in neon. Why? one is forced to ask, how is this significant, except as an exercise is copying something that had no real value in the first conception. But the artist has form and specialises in using poetry and damned words that cannot convey anything like the wonderful visual complexity of the visual world. It is faux intellectual pretence - all of it. Searle, asserts that neon is just a drawing tool - only it is not, it has no powers of expression, no subtlety and no personality, - none whatsoever just loud lights.

Which brings us to the other artist with some form. It is also second hand Duchamp, Quinn has merely cast a woman's body from life and added several of his own limbs. in short, as with Evans he has added nothing personal to the actual forms by constructing or modelling them himself, a task he doubtless would see as a complete waste of time. One could ask where the art lies in this presentation of life casts but frankly one is heartily sick of this post, post, post Duchamp strategy as an excuse for art. One would have much preferred to see the actual woman whose body was cast from, infinitely more interesting than plaster casts. This was something every sculpture student did in the 1960's just for fun, only it risks burning your model as the setting plaster builds up great heat, so please don't try it at home.  Quinn used surgical alginate which dentists and surgeons use, bit pricy for art students that! But Jonathon Jones really shouldn't bother with TV presentation, it is not his forte and merely points up a vacuous commentary.

Why would anyone think that this is art? What is it with the Guardian that they will invariably support questionable art?

Is culture now only for public school pupils? Arts faculties all gone and vanished from state schools, no more ordinary people learning visual arts, drama or music, just securing it for public school products with their blinkered and privileged view of the world and their inability to understand or empathise with those they see as the lower orders. We are fast going to hell in a bucket - but then the sixties was only about establishment guilt for winning WW2 was it not? Welcome to the new thirties and stand by for WW3 which none of us will survive. That is realistic is it not? The symptoms are all there to observe in our culture.

Hockney at the Tate

The news this week is that the number of UK students studying degree level art has declined significantly this past year. This in essence is probably a very good thing, there are far too many badly trained artists around as it is and a reduction in the numbers produced may result in better educated artists but don't hold your breath anytime soon.

Meanwhile the David Hockney exhibition is causing reams to be written and televised. Most of it plainly sycophantic but the one thing that has emerged from the publicity is the shallowness of the art. Even when he is playing with sophisticated visual ideas he manages to be superficial, maybe that has always been the pure visual charm of his work? Yet the work has not aged well, and his draughtsmanship was infinitely better in the 1960s than it is now. Hockney has not improved with age, he has just got louder and coarser in his imagery and colour.

Also Howard Hodgkin has sadly died at the age of 84 years, the empirically educated post war generation is diminishing, and nothing comes forth to replace them

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Years Honours list

The press has been fulsome in it's praise of John Berger who died recently. He was a child of his age and reading through some of the texts that have been republished one can only wonder at what a knowledge restricted age it was as compared to today's instant Google access culture. That said of course, knowledge that really matters in a post Trump age is being very rapidly monetised, to the extent that a lunchtime news item on the state of the economy with Martha Kearney included some pipsqueak sounding off about how we are successfully monetising knowledge for sale in China.
Waldemar Januszczak produces a really thoughtful piece of hostile commentary in the Sunday Times of 8th January. It contained several really apposite truths about the misbegotten status of words in contemporary art. The one aspect of Berger that stuck in one's craw was his incessant promotion of Marxism, not so much a way of seeing as yet another way of attitudinising art as issues. The older one gets the more one distrusts other peoples's feelings when talking about art.

Which brings us to the value judgements in the New Years Honours list. If this list does one thing it illustrates very clearly how state art is all the art that we are offered and we deserve so much more and so much better than this list of artists.

New Years Honour’s List Services To The Arts 2017

Chris Ofili CBE services to the arts
Ofilli has been a Tate gallery trustee and member of their collection committee - the Tate owns 19 of his decorative colourful design pieces. His work was bought by the Tate whilst he was a trustee in direct contravention of the charities guidelines.

Patrick Brill (Bob & Roberta Smith) OBE services to the art
This designer, whose colourful lettering is not out of place in a primary school and whose loud utterances on art education have done some harm. 

Ryan Gander OBE services to the art
Mildly diverting Conceptual artist of severely limited interest also Lisson gallery stable

Don McCullin For Services To Photography KBE
Arguably the best photographer the UK has produced.

David Adjaye, lead architect of the Smithsonian’s new museum of African 
American History in Washington, DC, has been granted a KBE.
Doing his jobsworth!

Rosemary Greenlees Executive Director Crafts Council OBE
She has done a lot of real good for promotion of the world of crafts

Jennifer Waldman Director Of Imperial War Museum CBE
Again a good sound choice.

Nicholas Logsdail Founder/ Director Lisson Gallery OBE
Richard Deacon, julian Opie and Bill Woodrow have all been Tate trustees represented by the Lisson. Lisson represents 50 artists, 30 of whom have a total of 348 artworks in the Tate's collection. Logsdail is one of the key eminence gris of UK State contemporary art, surprising when you consider the fact that 98% of the art that he has sold over the years has been, devoid of engaging aesthetic and artistic meaning. Usually abstract it is just the usual suspects doing the usual things, - why he even represents the diminutive Chinese dissident.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The best art of 2016

2016 was in many ways a terrible year and it has gone out with the deaths of several much loved celebrities. Be that as it may the Press art critics are shouting about the best shows of the year, yes, it's that time of the year again. As is usual their choices tell us more about the publications value system and priorities than about the art itself.
So for your delectation there are these links to stuff seen as the best, which is often anything but:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Truly terrible painting

So this week the press has numerous reviews of the Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern. Laura Cumming, calls him America's Leonardo which is a bit much. One thing that emerges from the show is the bleak contrast between Hirst's empty presentation of pickled animals and the transformative effect of using that famous stuffed goat with tyre even though it's tacit meaning still eludes us fifty years on.
She writes:  "This show opens up like the codex of his mind, constantly churning up new ideas, combinations, intuitive visions; celebrating our physical reality. Time may pass – clocks tick, buildings collapse, calendar pages count down in his art; there is even an x-ray of his own body in a late collage. But paint glues it all back together, like a novelist’s narrative. What is it like to be here, Rauschenberg asks, first to last, what is it like to be here and alive? " Except that the images are silk screen prints for the most part and not painting, - there was a time when every art student copied this technique and every school kid drew with solvents.

Meanwhile over at the Saatchi Gallery we have a show called Painters Painters. Never was a show more inappropriately named for what we have here is some of the most execrable attempts to paint an image it would be possible to find. We learn that that the artist, Michael Moloney is no less than 55yrs old. How on earth did he get to that age without realising that what he does isn't worth doing? No! How? How?
It's not just that his efforts wouldn't attain a GCSE grade, it's the fact that he still believes there is milage in truly dire incompetent painting which any amateur adult would be thoroughly ashamed of. But he's not the only one, the only painter here of any skill or worth is David Sale, and he has been around since the ark. Post truth generation Painters painters! what we have here isn't painting, it's pure dribble. As Waldemar Januszczak remarks, Saatchi has always had a weakness for very bad painting, as if that were an excuse for exhibiting pathetic efforts such as these. He writes; " - practitioners of bad painting kid themselves that by releasing whatever dumb nonsense comes into their heads, they are being revolutionary and free. What they are actually being is inept." Incompetently mocking the whole notion of art would be more accurate. Totally tiresome and passé.

As a contrast he says that the New contemporaries exhibition is honest by comparison to the Saatchi efforts, and all the painters are better, truer and more authentic than the pretentious Painters, painters. Purely because they are still trying to paint, one supposes?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Click bait!

The US presidential election has pointed up the problem of fake news, propagated on the Net by political interests whose objective is to gain and hold power:
"It’s an unfortunate reality that news reporting is often at odds with the interest trifecta of politics, profits, and public opinion.

What’s changed is the internet, which has altered the scale of the fake news problem, taking it to another level. While fake news might have been less visible in the past, it has always been with us. Where we might find Twitter bots today, we’ll find AI-powered virtual assistants and ubiquitous natural language interfaces (ie, Alexa, Siri, and Google Home) tomorrow."

The use of the internet by to enforce a specific world view is objectionable, because the truth becomes a populist sound bite created to achieve an objective. As Carole Cadwalladr puts it:  "And we have to wake up to what is happening right now on the laptop on our desk, the phone in our pocket, the tablet in our children’s bedrooms. This is our choice: do something. Or accept the truth according to Google. That six million didn’t die. That the Holocaust never happened. That we didn’t care enough to remember."

This blog, exists to dig out the truth free from articles of faith derived from the art world, which is an arcane, hermetic, marketing world. Rather like religious faith if you do not share the belief values of State Art and higher non-art education, you are perfectly entitled to dissent as often the man on the Clapham omnibus does. Works of art that are not art are kitsch and promoted as such they are a waste of valuable time, lost on the young who have been too poorly educated and have little or no art judgement or discrimination apart from the false ephemeral values of today's news. This is beginning to change though, with age comes wisdom and discrimination and the freedom to say it stinks to high heaven, it doesn't enhance life values as art should do. There are of course exceptions, as not all contemporary art stinks, even when most of the dross pile does. Now more than ever, when promoted world views are at the service of power, it is essential to look for the truth and not to accept the lies. Test this by opening Google images and looking at what it finds for avant garde art. Ask yourself what judgements have the Google algorithm applied.

Pleasingly Helen Marten has criticised the extraordinary privilege of the State art world in her Turner speech acceptance quoting a series of right on urban values. In this week's 11th Dec Sunday Press Waldemar Januszczak considers her deconstruction:  "There is definitely something timid about them, as there always is with deconstruction. Itsy-bitsy and intriguing is always less of a risk than coherent and whole."  
Amen to that, but they do add up to new and intriguing meanings!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Helen Marten - 4th december

So this week we find that Helen Marten has won the Turner Prize, having only just shared out her winnings from the Hepworth Sculpture Prize, which she won three weeks ago. For once, she is an interesting and right on traditional sculptor of some origonality. It seems that the zeitgeist is changing and some real values are now being promoted along with some excellence.
What Marten has managed to do is very interesting, she seems to have broken the log jam created by the Duchamp inspired kitsch of the YBAs by returning to real sculptural values but using post modern deconstruction. What this means is that by selecting and juxtaposing numerous object's meanings she is creating a new type of traditional sculpture of some value. She is moving on from where Carl Plackman left off, creating new values from the old and the fact that she is receiving such acclamation, as two recent major prizes proves, that traditional sculpture is not completely dead. Lets hope she goes from strength to strength, as she is definitely a sculptor to keep track of and she shows great promise. She said this at the award ceremony:

“Everyone in this room is operating in this world that is so fucking privileged,” 

 “We’re afforded so much optimism and education and time to do these things, and this is not the global consensus.”

No, this is too true, just ask the people trapped in Aleppo.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Reprieve for A Level art history.

Today 2nd December brings the pleasing news that A level art history has been saved from the scrapheap. As Sally Weale writes in the Guardian, the government has caved in due to the serried ranks of the great and the good exerting pressure. Presumably public school great and good for they are the only source of teaching it now. However the new Art history has been offered to Pearsons as a nice little earner for teachers to take up next September - don't all rush now. Pity that they have not seen fit to bring back Archeology but Sir Tony Robinson is confident that they will overcome the obstacles to this.
One amusing aside from this article is the comments from Jeremy Deller "artist" as he said this : "It’s given me a lot. I didn’t do art at school. We had an art department but I didn’t study art. This was my opportunity to get as close to art as possible without actually making it." 
That maybe explains why his conceptual artwork can only use second hand images with extensive verbal support to elicit their purported meaning. As opposed the real actual practise of art making which he would have been taught be his art department at Dulwich College - where the meaning is embedded in actually creating the image and doesn't require a verbal translation from the curator's wall label!

Arts and urban redevelopment

Our local authority is redeveloping an area beside the local river, so the local press has the usual promotion for involving the arts as a way of interesting people in the site and the cafes. This is the usual wrong headed hype from those who expect public art to perform like monkeys.
It has to be said that the promotion of the arts is not a secure environmental cure all for derelict areas. In 2010, 5.7 million pounds was spent on the Cultural Olympics by Arts Council England and we have not one single item of art to show for what was a scandalous waste of other people's funds. A number of very expensive white elephants from the Public in West Bromwich to the latest causality Walsall's New Art gallery have fallen foul of low support and take up after their cash strapped councils have failed to sustain what will always be a minority interest. The powers that be who want their names attached to new art galleries/centres don't care a damn about the often huge ongoing costs of running and staffing these pure status symbols. This has occurred repeatedly after initial investments of millions, and the quality of the art on offer is absolutely no guarantee of the buildings long term success. Often the assumed revival of a region fails to materialise, despite the quality art input, because those who inject the art have little or no knowledge of what art is and their objectives are purely utilitarian or pecuniary. Perhaps before the local council decides to waste possible millions of pounds of tax payers or sponsors money, they would be well advised to visit the Turner Contemporary in Margate and secure some understanding of why that particular gallery has been a commercial success when others have failed dismally.

As Tate curator Andrew Brighton has said: " the idea that people without art are lesser or inferior beings is a ridiculous assumption, a piece of moral vanity akin to a religious fanatics belief that only those of their faith are capable of real virtue. " 
For many, the issues which preoccupy the post modern urban art poseur; multiculturalism, egalitarianism, feminism, environmentalism and the other right on attitudes do not preoccupy them, they simply don't have the time or interest. There are millions of people who live happy and fulfilled lives without any engagement with the arts. The arts cannot guarantee anything, least of all tourists, they are far too ephemeral and transitory.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Heavy Fog on the Thames

Today 24th brings the news that there will be mist and fog surrounding Tate Modern next spring courtesy of a Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya. The first BMW Tate Live exhibition, to be an annual event, opens in spring. Live installations will be created in and above the Tate Modern's underground Tanks space, which the gallery said will "provide visitors with a distinctive location in which to engage with new art in a new way". In short more of the same old same old state art trivia. It remains to be seen whether the fog will actually appear as it failed dismally to do when another artist attempted it for the Cultural Olympics at great public cost.

Then there is Waldemar Januszczak in this weeks 27/11 Sunday Times complaining about the new design Museum. It has moved from its old haunt in a Thames warehouse to the new Commonwealth Institute in Kensington and he says has lost its purpose on the way. He has a pop at traditional craft objects, inclusion, film, video, a robot called mimus, etc etc,  all of it predicated on the global village. He writes ;" thus refugee Republic is a digital Syrian refugee camp that can be explored interactively by gliding around it with a mouse - in which parallel reality can that ever seemed like a good idea." And this ; "more offensive still because it is a crime against reason is the taste for objects designed to look as if they are not designed at all. Thus species II from a creative grouping that produces furniture that is removed from the idea of comfort, is an armchair that looks like a mountain range." 
This actually points to something which is becoming increasingly common throughout the entire culture. From news that is complete lies to cyberattacks there is more and more evidence of projects that are the result of puerile crap thinking. Usually by so called university products to whom common sense is an alien concept and cannot judge the worth of any idea. 
Laura Cumming in the 27/11 Observer is upset by physical confrontation in the work of Monica Bonvicini at the Gateshead Baltic. She concludes her assessment of the exhibition with this accurate criticism; ," And this is tiresome, in the end. Bonvicini has made some staggering works – above all, the glass-and-steel ship that shivers on the fjord before Oslo Opera House, reprising Caspar David Friedrich’s painted shipwrecks – but scarcely any appear in this show. Here she is just asking for trouble throughout, until the affront starts to grate. The drill swings violently into action, the live wires crackle, the door slams repeatedly in your face." 
The art of insulting the viewers sensibility as it were!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Great Expectations?

First off this piece of hubris has hit the press this week - we are informed that at the Venice Biennale 2017 we will see:
The exhibition, which will open to the public Sunday, 9 April 2017, marks a new stage in the history of Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana: for the first time, the two Venetian headquarters of the Pinault Collection will be entirely handled by a single artist. This is the first major exhibition dedicated to Damien Hirst in Italy since his retrospective in 2004 at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples." 
Also in the realm of unrealistic hubris, there was an article in the Sunday Times magazine of 13th November concerning the great gallery building program for second rate towns and why most of these have failed dismally. There is no simple answer to the problem as to why the Turner Contemporary in Margate is succeeding (apart from tourists) whilst the Public in West Bromwich went down the drain, the Hepworth in Wakefield is in financial trouble as is the Middlesborough Institute of modern art. The article however centres upon the financial plight of the New Art Gallery in Walsall which cost 21million and is likely to loose it's £430,000 subsidy from the cash strapped council. Rosie Millard writes, " Maybe the people of Walsall need reminding that in order to save their world class gallery, they need to patronise it. The council is to announce it's decision within weeks. And then there will be people crying over Wasalls peerless array of Monets Modiglianis and Picassos." 
So much for misplaced and misconceived economic regeneration courtesy of modern art. 

This week also draws attention to the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Britain which has been covered by all the usual commentators.  Waldemar Januszczak writes : "Nash becomes a typical British beachcomber, finding strange concurrences among pebbles, the bones and the driftwood. How determinedly he searches for the the transportive ecstasy that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary." Reminds one of the joke about the new student art teacher who put out a still life group in front of a class of 15 year olds to be greeted with a firm vociferous protest : " We done them shells already miss!".

Laura Cumming writes; " Everything Nash paints has that curious timelessness. The aeroplanes in his most famous masterpiece Totes Meer could almost be old ships  but for the markings or frozen waves but for a solitary wheel...... The picture was painted in 1940-1 but it could be set in a nuclear winter."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fraud and fakery

The news from the Frieze art fair was downgraded by a huge faking scandal emerging from France via Sothebys.
This is the exposure of a huge fake art scandal in the offing, centred upon old masters, this has emerged from France where some criminal has been making apt and apposite masterpieces for the market. It's generally assumed in popular culture that those who pursue this line of work, - that is faking great art have a great unrecognised talent and skills set. This is not the case, copying even with an average skills set is very easy as any artist will tell you. The difficulty that appears to have been well attended to here, is defeating the huge army of scientific and forensic test now available to experts, but because the rewards in terms of cash are so huge faking will always be an industry. A Sound documented provenance is everything when buying or selling art of any kind.

Stand by for some new revelations concerning rediscovered Old masters that were newly to the market. Although why? when old masters are so cheap compared to very expensive contemporary art, one would assume that new contemporary art would be a more financially rewarding area. But then there are all kinds of fakes and fakers.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Revisionist Wimmen artists.

So it's revisionist books promoting wimmen artists, because that's what the politically correct contemporary art press is banging on about this week, - books on Pauline Boty and Maria Abramovic both turn up in the Guardian weekend.
Ali Smith writes two pages in support of Pop artist Pauline Boty who died at the tragically young age of 28 in 1966. She found that she had cancer when she was pregnant but refused to abort her child by having chemo, a truly sad fate. Her paintings were stored away in her brothers barn for 30 years before their rediscovery around the turn of the century.
There is a deep philosophical problem with Pop art, it was an unquestioning acceptance and adulation of 1960's consumerism and it arguably created perfect conditions in the 1970's for the imposition of Charles Saatchi's dominance  of contemporary art.  He saw fine art as a resource to plunder and exploit for the use of the advertising industry. This has been very well documented as has the decline of the avant garde. But truth to tell, Boty's painting and collage had an undertone of questioning and dissent that was lacking in the work of such luminaries as Oldenburg, Peter Blake or Richard Hamilton. 
Ali Smith asserts that Pauline Boty was the first and only British artist who happened to be a woman. This is nonsense, there were hundreds of women artists around even major ones such as Ann Christopher, Louise Bourgeois  or Barbara Hepworth. Continuing in the same vein he writes this copy: " Boty became one of the earliest feminists to do what would soon become a feminist device: use her body as a vehicle for her art , posing in front of her works for the photographers who had been sent to the studio to to shoot the anomaly of a female artist who was also a stunning blond." 
Then this tripe: " when she arrived at the RCA it was as a student of stained glass since women in the early 60s had little or no chance of getting into the school of painting." 
No-one had any chance of getting into the RCA painting school in the early 1960's because they only took six to nine students in a year, four of which were foreign. One really wonders what kind of great artist she would have become if she had not died such an early tragic death, and how she could have rewritten the entire history of Pop art.

But when are the Guardian, with their constant over enthusiastic promotion of all that stinks in contemporary state art, going to apply some rigour and discipline to their pen pushers produce?

Which brings us to the most over-hyped non visual artist in existence Maria Abramovic - the grand diva of using her body in pursuit of art, and an article by Simon Hattenstone promoting her book memoirs. We read in the exploration of her relationship with her former partner : " The defining moment came when Ulay walked up and sat opposite her (she had invited him, but didn’t know if he would come). She reached across, took his hands, wept, then closed her eyes. It is a profoundly moving moment, one that has been watched more than 14m times on YouTube." Yeh sure man very moving private grief! but what she amounts to as an artist is a Tracey Emin without any art object production, purely issue presentation and celebrity. However you cut it, Pauline Boty could paint.

Then there is this very odd art history tome for Christmas - "The Art of Rivalry"? As Rachel Cooke writes;  " But these things don’t entirely compensate for the sense that Smee, the winner of a Pulitzer prize for his art criticism, is sometimes only going through the motions – particularly so in the case of the rather breathless essay on Matisse and Picasso, which never seems to do much more than skim the surface. All in all, it feels rather forced, bolted together: a book that didn’t need to be written, and thus doesn’t always demand to be read." Damning art book promotion indeed.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ebacc to the 1880s - 3

The decline in arts education provision continues with the UK news that A level History of Art has gone down the pan and is now to be abandoned. It's easy to overlook that these decisions are in the hands of people whose choices leave a lot to be desired.
Having done A Level and Scholarship level History of Art in the 1960's, now having to cope with sadness at the destruction of art education for purely ideological reasons. The art schools provided a pathway for all sorts of misfits and eccentrics to achieve something in their life, even to out and out create the pop music industry, so they now have to go! Dumping art education on Universities and closing the rest destroyed their creativity and autonomy with the result that the UK now has little serious higher art education worthy of a future.
Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times writes passionately in support of art hstory; "  What's really happening is that the collapse of educational values is happening on our watch. And during this collapse of values, the understanding of our history through art - the best and truest understanding that there is viewed as a distraction. It doesn't lead to a job." - " Art history is the most revealing window we can open onto the human condition."
The academic teaching of the history of Art has a long and distinguished tradition in UK schools where it was taught as an addition and adjunct to history precisely because it deals with the real world as it was, with real visual evidence about real people. It teaches you how very similar to yourself they were despite their mean and short lives, as Waldemar points out - how do we now visualise Henry VIII except through Holbein's depiction of him.
The past is now seen by this technology based, childish, immature culture we inhabit as something to be dismissed as totally irrelevant, despite it's urgent real life application and relevance. The truth is that the past was in many ways a far better place than we have now, and the study of art history is a measure of the civilisation that we are throwing away in pursuit of web based ignorance. Education is both innovation and conservation, things have to be conserved for their intrinsic value or we descend into rapidly into the State that the middle east is in.
It's very easy to destroy the thin veneer of behaviour that is a civilisation, art history can at least teach us that, you only need to look at Picasso's Guernica or Goya's war images. Again and again we stand back and fail to speak out when these really stupid decisions are made.  Ignorance is very, very cheap, it costs nothing to pursue - except a future life worth living.

As Izzy Renton wrote in the Guardian ;" Undermining visual analysis in a world where young people are attacked by visual propaganda every day is short sighted. If anything the tools of visual criticism should be offered sooner to all."
Perhaps that puts the finger on the real motivation of the government, more effective propaganda is required. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Picasso Portraits

This week Waldemar Januszczak and Laura Cumming are both discussing the superb Picasso Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait gallery. An exhibition not to be missed for the amazingly varied visual range that's on view.

Laura writes; " In fact, the show is a true liberation from art-historical constraints. Its curator, Elizabeth Cowling, urges us to view Picasso as an actual man rather than an avant garde deity. She has assembled nearly 80 portraits from every phase of his career – blue period drinkers, cubist flâneurs, opulent nudes, caricatures, late self-portraits – in a condensed retrospective that fills the entire ground floor of the National Portrait Gallery. Nor are these pseudo-portraits, like the Tate’s Weeping Woman, lacking any sense of individual presence. Each image has force of personality, no matter how remote from conventional likeness."

Quite which goes to prove how people no longer look at visual images or observe what's in front of them. Waldemar happily points this out with this remark; "  And how the shifting between moods and personas was achieved not by changing poses or capturing expressions or controlling the light, as others did it, but by brilliantly innovative mark making - in Picasso's portraiture message and manner were fused in a way that was ultimately unique."

Mark Hudson at the Telegraph is more blinkered in his reponse; " But there are marvellous things all the way through, more than enough to make this one of the year’s must-see shows. You leave astonished at Picasso’s near-miraculous ability to make lines, colours and brush marks do absolutely anything he wanted."

Christine Temple at the Guardian is downright amateur in her wordy criticism; " He did not use his visual and tactile memory to produce exact copies of what he had seen. He changed them into something new, combining the originals with other ideas and influences. Just not good enough.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Turner prize 2016 - 2

Laura Cumming in this weeks Observer has come up with a critical piece attacking the current Turner Prize for it's routine staidness and predictability.
She writes; "Some say we should wave farewell to the Turner prize with Nicholas Serota’s forthcoming departure. But the prize is as tenured as an emeritus professor. Too many reputations depend upon it, and it remains Tate Britain’s compensation for being demoted by Tate Modern. Its format, however, should change."

This is truly relevant, reform of the judging for the prize is long overdue which is very ironic considering how the art world is always banging on about freedom of expression, challenging, shock values etc, all the repeated tired old sores. Yet here in the centre of our visual culture with Frieze opening this week there is politically motivated total stasis. Art is now a form of entertainment, the 'art' as in high aesthetic and artistic values has gone, been replaced by a funfair ride through vague amusements.
As Adrian Searle comments in the Guardian; "These thoughts had me pressing the buzzer next to the ornate bronze elevator doors Ryan Gander has installed in a wall at Johnen Galerie. “Elevator to Culturefield,” reads the sign. But the doors don’t open and the lift is going nowhere. It is nothing but a dream of escape. There isn’t one.""

Nor will there be anytime soon, as an artist your only ethical choice is to work with the actual future in mind and ignore the fatuous glitter of a very tired vacuous Post, post modern art world. Winnowing is all, and truly inevitable.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Turner Prize - really?

Ebacc to the 1880's - 2

This blog does tend to point up the decline in arts education and with good reason. The shortsightedness of politicians and Ebacc curriculum planners is doing a huge disservice to the UK's children who will desperately need a creative subject for their future career pathway. So they will be no longer able to pursue art, drama, music or dance at state school because of the current incumbents concern to downrate the arts as inaccessible to the lower orders. The decline is already in progress, take up of arts subjects has declined by 7% this year alone. When will people become aware of the fact that the subjects that they are forcing the UK's children to study now are going to be totally irrelevant in the future, if the promises of Artificial Intelligence are achieved. What person in 2080 will have a need of an academic background, unless of course they become unpaid drones sustaining an artificial culture run by machines and a power elite. Write to your MP if you care about the average state educated child and write now! Of course it's possible that the future, will be far worse in every way than the present slow cultural decline, international problems are not going away anytime soon.

To lighter concerns It's that time once again and the Tate has unveiled it's 2016 Turner Prize exhibition. According to Edward Lucie Smith it is recovering it's relevance, well - if only that were true. There is a long way to go yet before the gritty problem of the content of contemporary art is addressed in both the art market and in art education. If it ever will be?
Which funnily enough brings us neatly to the Fourth Plinth whose most recent contributor is this chancers contented joke. The renowned Jonathan Jones of Guardian state art support at all cost, wrote this non-sense; " Are we all modern Stalins, an inane public demanding that artists grin and smile and affirm that life in Britain is really good? David Shrigley's thumb is so pleased with the way things are that it wants to jab God in the eye." 
So much for an expensive history education at Cambridge - which leads to writing such as this! Never will understand why the Guardian is such a hard boiled supporter of everything that is truly pathetic and very impoverished in State art. 

Arts Council England - are you the right kind of artist?

This week brings the news via Private Eye would you believe, that ACE are employing a commercial company called Counting what Counts to use a quality metrics system to assess whether you are the right kind of artist or arts organisation to be funded by their beneficence .....  
This is courtesy of IT buffoons at Nesta, (a self perpetuating quango that should have been put down long ago for all the asinine pretence of good that it has done). Downright stupid and totally misconceived, one has to ask how the use of this sort of faux utilitarian data profiling  will get anywhere near assessing the quality of future artworks?
It cannot do so, simply because the judgement of any artwork is totally subjective and the result of a highly developed sensibility born of years of experience. It will only ever be capable of making judgements based upon the prejudice of the algorithm writer. The bean counters however are set to generate some very righteous anger from those arts organisations and artists who will inevitably resent faked attempts to evaluate their work, it's easy to see trouble brewing - blood will be on the carpet. This is not to say though, that the Arts council's largess has ever been prioritised for artists who produce real art. 

As Private Eye says; " The pilot study carried out by CWC claimed resounding success - but then they would say that, having received a substantial chunk of the more than £700,000 of public funds already invested and facing the happy prospect of all those individual £2000 fees. An independent evaluation conducted at the same time was far more critical, noting the hostility of the arts organisations forced to deal with it. Those organisations are now asking hard questions about CWC and how it has been handed so much power and money without any tendering procedure."

ACE has never really had to account to the tax payer for all the money it burns on the thankless task of maintaining the wholesale pretence that is UK State art. Gross example - The millions of tax payers and lottery cash it burned on cultural Olympiad conceptual junk which produced absolutely zilch of significance or material benefit for the UK.